FoMM Newsletter – February 2024

Butterfly walk: Sunday 18 February 1-3 pm

Join us for a guided walk with butterfly expert Dr Suzi Bond. Meet at the Antill Street nature park entrance next to the last Hackett houses and a classic Canberra bus stop.

Wear sturdy shoes – we’ll be walking on trails on the lower slopes of Mount Majura. Bring a gold coin donation, drinking water, sun protection and, if you have them, binoculars, a camera with a zoom function or Suzi’s Field Guide to Butterflies of the ACT.

Butterflies are actively feeding and flying on warm sunny days but, if they are resting, Suzi will point out plants which are important for Mount Majura’s butterflies, the creatures’ environmental importance and much more. More information here.

You can hear Suzi speak about butterflies on Sunday 18 February at 8.00am on Radio 1RPH (1125 AM or live on The program is repeated on Tuesday 20 February at 12.30pm.

Broad-margined Azure, Ogyis olane – Photo Canberra Nature Mapr

Meadow Argus, Junonia villida – Photo Canberra Nature Mapr

Woody weeds working bee Sunday 25 February 9am-12 noon

We are revisiting the site of our January working bee, in a shady patch of bush in North Watson. We will target Southern Blue Gum seedlings which have escaped from the adjacent Valour Park. The beautiful gum (Eucalyptus globulus subsp. bicostata) is native to Victoria and the grassy woodland of Mount Majura is not its home. We remove the seedlings to avoid a future small forest growing in the nature park. We will also target other woody weeds, such as Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) and Sweet Briar roses (Rosa rubiginosa).

Meet at 9.00am at the nature park entrance at Tay and Ian Nicol Streets, North Watson. From there, we will walk to the site. No experience necessary; give what time you can spare. More information and a map here.

Bring drinking water, sunscreen and eye protection (sunglasses); wear sturdy shoes and clothes suitable for working in long grass; BYO garden gloves if you have them. We provide tools, gloves, a warm welcome, and delicious cake for morning tea.

Reward your weeding efforts by taking home Blue Gum branchlets to enjoy their decorative juvenile leaves and lovely perfume.

As well as hand-pulling small seedlings at the January working bee, Harriette felled a larger Blue Gum using a saw: its stump was then painted with glysophate. Photo Liese Baker.

Little critters

It’s a good time to look for little critters on Mount Majura. The aromatic Rosemary Cassinia (Cassinia quinquefaria) commonly known as the Cauliflower bush, is beginning its flowering season and attracting tiny pollinators such as pintail beetles (family Mordellidae). How tiny? An individual Cassinia flower is about 5 mm, and many of the critters are also that size.

Rosemary Cassinia is one of the summer flowering shrubs with white or cream flowers which light up our bush after the winter-spring yellow and gold flowering wattles. First comes Shiny Cassinia, followed by Australian Blackthorn and finally the Rosemary Cassinia. All of them have masses of small flowers and attract similar pollinators.

To see the tiny critters, you need excellent sight or a macro setting on your phone camera. Otherwise, you might just see small moving black dots on white blobs! You may also see tiny native bees or native flies on the flowers and larger insects and spiders, some there to prey on the Pintails. On your walks in our nature reserves, look for little critters, take photos (with location setting on) and upload them to CNM. You may find species which no-one else has recorded, and they will add to the Species Richness Score for the reserve.

A Spotted Lichen Moth (Asura cervicalis) and a pintail beetle feeding on a Cassinia flower. Photo Barbara Read.

Canberra Nature Mapr: Species Richness Score (SRS)

Canberra Nature Mapr (formerly Map) has introduced a new feature to record biodiversity in nature reserves and other areas, the Species Richness Score, see here.

CNM currently records 10,151 entries for Mount Majura, dating to the 1990s, when old records from the ACT Wildlife Atlas were added. More recently, 5380 records with photos have been added.

Many of the CNM records are for the same species, recorded at different times and locations. SRS summarises this information, weighting their status as native or exotic. There is a dashboard for Mount Majura, where you will find the current records status and a graph showing changes over recent years.

For Mount Majura, the SRS is now rated 3100 for the reserve’s 553 hectares, and it has been steadily increasing over the last few years. The graph also shows the recent survey effort in sightings per hectare; the cumulative survey effort listed as 18.35 species per hectare. There is also a colourful wheel showing the species, see below. When you visit the CNM web page, put your cursor over a section to find the exact number of recorded species e.g. 603 species of plants, at the top half of the wheel.

If you compare the wheel for Mt Ainslie with Mt Majura’s, interestingly, nearly half the species on the Ainslie wheel are insects: so we have many more insects to record on Mt Majura!

Twilight weeding continues in February

These weeding sessions are popular while people can still enjoy relaxed summer evenings. Join us at The Fair site in North Watson from 6-7.30 pm on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings. More information here.

The twilight sessions target our worst weed, St John’s Wort. What brings joy to this tedious work is pulling out the weeds growing in dense patches of wildflowers, including Clustered everlastingsSticky Everlastings and Hoary Sunrays.

This summer we’ve also enjoyed seeing the proliferation of Variable Glycine peas with their beautiful leaves and gorgeous little purple flowers; Urn and Daphne heaths, Yellow Rush Lilies and an attractive native grass with the unlovely name of Hairy Panic. Another unfortunately named but lovely ground cover, Stinking Pennywort, is also thriving. We’ve also seen Sweet Hounds-tongue, which does indeed smell sweet.

Perhaps best of all, we have seen the rare Cullen tenax (Tough Scurf-pea, commonly known as ‘Emu foot’).

The grasslands of Mount Majura are beautifully biodiverse, but they need your help. If you enjoy recreational activities in this part of the Canberra Nature Park, give something back. No special knowledge is required. Just turn up. Give an hour or two. Meet like-minded people and enjoy some beautiful time on lovely twilight evenings.

Twilight weeder Jenni Marsh’s photo added 3 points to Mount Majura’s Species Richness Score after she uploaded it to CanberraNatureMapr.

And then there are the nasties …

In June last year FoMM volunteers discovered a small incursion of a nasty weed growing on Mount Majura: Inkweed (Pytolacca otandra). It was the first time we had come across it, and we quickly removed it. Parks and Conservation Service staff have recently advised that larger infestations have been discovered in the ACT.

Inkweed is highly toxic, with all parts of the plant considered poisonous to people, livestock and pets. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, breathing difficulties and even convulsions. If you see Inkweed take a photograph (with location switched on) and post it to Canberra Nature Mapr. You should also alert The Weeds of Melbourne website has some good photos of Inkweed.

The inkweed found growing on Mount Majura. Photo Margy Burn.

Monday mornings at the Fair

Every week a group of FoMM volunteers works at The Fair site in North Watson. Meet us any Monday at 9.30am at the park entrance near Tay and Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary – you will learn from others who will share their knowledge. In February we will be hand-pulling St John’s Wort where it is growing close to wildflowers, an easy task since the recent rain means the soil is moist; also turning our attention to weeds such as Blackberry nightshade (Solanum nigrum) growing near trees which are sheltering native plants.

On Monday we found this Social Huntsman Spider (Delena cancerides) sheltering in one of our weed bags. Let’s hope this may deter the antisocial people who sometimes steal the bags from the nature park entrance! As the name suggests these spiders hunt their prey, rather than trapping them in webs. While large and scary-looking, they are generally harmless. And it is the mother socialising with her daughters who may share a prey; males are excluded. Photo Waltraud Pix.

FoMM volunteers top the annual report of Park Care activities in 2022-23

We shouldn’t skite, but the recently published ParkCare annual report shows FoMM again topped the contribution of all 31 ACT ParkCare groups.

The 90 FoMM volunteers who turned up to weed last year contributed 3667 hours to this great result. Some of you could only turn up once, some of you worked most weeks. Whether one-off, infrequent or regular, every volunteer contribution counts to maintain and transform the beautiful environment of Mount Majura. We are fortunate to enjoy living close to a lovely part of the Canberra Nature Park; a hugely significant area of biodiversity. Thanks everyone, for your individual contribution to this fantastic achievement. You can read the Annual Report here.

Some Monday volunteers after a satisfying morning’s work at the Fair. Photo Margy Burn.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.